Shiny New Sewing Machines…

I’m a sucker for shiny new objects, especially when they’re sewing machines I’ve never seen before. Yesterday, I went into a local sewing machine shop (Central Sewing Centre in El Cajon) to see if they had a sleeve board. My old sleeve board was a cheepo one made of particle board, and of course it quickly snapped in half. So I wanted something good. I also wanted to see if they carried Wooly Nylon.

So I walked in, and the sales pitch began… But golly, these machines are neat!!

The first machine I saw was what they call a “Sashiko” machine. Blanket stitches. Oh my goodness it was beautiful!!! Talk about regular spacing and even stitching… I was stunned. Of course, I don’t really have much of a need for it, but it was fascinating to say the least.

ProdEMB12

And then they walked me over to their “Embellisher” machine, which I probably have more use for… I can’t even describe what this was doing–it was totally creating textures, needle felting, and melding two pieces of fabric together, and affixing yarn and ribbon and silk to fabric, and making flourettes–all with 12 needles and no yarn. It was stunning. I want this machine… And they had it on sale, but it was still out of my range… Good grief it was awe inspiring… The things I could do to my creations…

So my trip to the sewing shop was really quite useful. And I got my sleeve board ordered and picked up some Wooly Nylon to boot. And I’m putting this Embellisher machine on my Christmas list.

Things at La Jolla are still comin’ together. I will probably be there for another week on Bonnie and Clyde, and then my job will come to a close as the show opens. I’ve been told it’s quite good, and it’s selling out. I”ve had my head buried in assembling two pairs of matching men’s suit pants for a scene where Clyde’s brother, Buck, is baptized by immersion. Wouldn’t do to walk around in wet clothes for 2/3s of the play…

I guess that’s it! I’m heading out to my garage this afternoon, and finishing reading up a script for my next Design experience: Moxie Theatre’s “Expecting Isabel”. It’s a cute show thus far!

Ta ta for now! Live life with Relish!

Workin’ Overtime…

Work at La Jolla Playhouse has reached the “overtime” phase as we approach closer and closer to the preview performances. For the last two days, they have been “tech-ing” the show, from the beginning, bit by bit. That means they’ve had all the actors in their costumes, and slowly coordinated the lighting, projections, and set in order to merge everything together.

We’ve had a handful of notes that have been required, but they’ve mostly been fitting notes and such. I’ve been hard at work on the pants portion of a mens three-piece suit that we have to make doubles of–this particular actor gets wet during a full immersion baptism, and so wearing the same suit throughout the show would be a tad bit uncomfortably squishy. : )

So I’ve been assembling welt pockets and side pockets and such, stuff I haven’t done in a very long time. I so rarely actually make stuff for myself–I don’t know why… Portions of the mens wear process is quite familiar to me, but there are gaps in my knowledge. The only way I’ve learned to fill those gaps is to practice, practice, practice…

I saw a special on TV last night about Bill Cosby receiving the 2009 Mark Twain Comedy award, and there was a clip from the Cosby Show that had one of the characters wearing an awesome vest from the 1980’s. The back simply continued down into a set of “tails” that flowed gently behind the vest, all in satin. I was enchanted! I have to do that next! It looked so elegant and so flashy at the same time, yet it was incredibly complimentary to the form of the woman who was wearing it. I think that may be one of my upcoming projects! I also want to try a men’s smoking jacket, and a women’s trench, but we’ll see if we get to that.

I have accepted a design position for an upcoming show at the Moxie Theatre for their production of “Expecting Isabell”. It’s about a couple’s journey when they decide they want a child, and how things get almost ridiculous on the way… It’s a comedy, and while I’ve only read about a quarter of the script so far, I am tickled pink! It’s cute, and charming, and poignant, and sad and hilarious all at the same time. I anticipate this will be a big success!

Alrighty! More soon! Live life with Relish!

Merrily we stitch along…

I’m still at La Jolla, working as overhire on their show, Bonnie and Clyde. It’s going very well for me–we are getting a lot done and I am learning a lot about working with materials that I haven’t had much of a chance to develop skills around.

We’ve been making women’s slips and period bras, dresses and tops, as well as working with china silk and silk georgette, stripes and plaids… I must admit, I sometimes feel like I’m all thumbs when I try to work with delicate materials that don’t have much body to them… I am used to working with wools and such, doing menswear. Those kinds of materials are much more sturdy, with a weight and feel that allows for a heavier “hand” when manipulating them.

But these soft, flimsy fabrics require a much gentler touch that’s almost excruciatingly mind-numbing… Even the smallest needle in my sewing machine irreparably damages the pieces I insert under my machine’s presser foot, and the feed dogs of my machine seem to simply chew up the materials regardless of how attentive I can be… I am learning to handle the gossamer fabrics with a graceful hand but it is not coming easily…

Im also learnin a bit about knits… I’m not sure, but I think that the refined knitting that we wear today (like jersey knit and t-shirt knit) is a relatively contemporary invention when it comes to clothing… Those kinds of small weaves simply weren’t possible in the past by hand. As a consequence, since most of my sewing is in historical reproduction, I don’t have much experience working with knits–most clothing throughout history has been done with weaves. So stretch fabrics, and the techniques required to sew them are all very “alien” to me. But with this show, I’ve been able to play with some knits and learned some new stuff that I can’t wait to try at home.

Ever heard of Wooly Nylon?  wooly_nylon_web Oh my goodness what an invention!!! I was able to sew with it on my regular Bernina home machine (a 930), and a regular straight stitch suddenly became a stretch stitch! I couldn’t believe it! No special settings or equipment–it hit me that now I can actually sew knits at home with my regular machine and not have to switch a bunch of settings and such. Can you say “ecstatic”?? This opens up a whole new world for me and what I can produce now.

On top of that, the home serger that was in the shop at La Jolla is the exact same model that I have at home: A Juki MO-735. So I was able to learn about chain stitches and cover stitches while getting paid for it! I was using what I was learning on the garments I was building, and storing that knowledge for use later at home. I am so excited for this new potential! What an awesome experience this has been!

Anyway, I go in to work today at 1:00pm to assemble some mockups for some menswear we are building (finally, some familiar territory), and finish up a 1930’s diner apron that we are slamming together. I am listening to Robert Jordan’s “Eye of the World” from his Wheel of Time Series, and (being the typical male geek that I am) I’m really enjoying it. Boys with swords. Yada yada yada! : )

Okay back to work!  More later!  Live life with Relish!

Costume-ology, Part 2

My experiences working in the Bonnie and Clyde costume shop at La Jolla Playhouse are really turning out to be quite remarkable! We’re all hard at work sewing together several 1930’s outfits, mostly for the women, and doing alterations on several rented items for the men.

I took some more pictures, so I think I’ll just comment on them.

Women's Clothing Rack

Women's Clothing Rack

The above picture is a shot of some of the costumes for the women. Many of the items that are being used in the show already exist, being rented from various rental houses like Western Costume. La Jolla has a stock of items already, and the goal is to use as much as we can that’s appropriate from pre-existing garments, but sometimes that’s not possible when the garment is too fragile or there are specific requirements in the script that prohibit their use (like getting wet, etc.). This rolling rack is chock full of garments that have already been tried on and decided upon, either for a media shot for promotional materials or in the show itself. We’ve worked our way through most of these and repaired the holes and tears that were in them or adjusted them for fit. Notice all the shoes in the bottom–Actors Equity (the actors union) requires that the cast have new shoes specific for each actor (who wants to spend a month wearing someone else’s icky shoes?), so there are lots of pairs for the actors waiting to be tried on. Shoes can be a pricey expenditure, especially when you’re trying to find something that’s not contemporary… And believe it or not, sometimes the period look is defined by the footwear!

Patterns, Patterns, and more Patterns

Patterns, Patterns, and more Patterns

The above picture is of the rack that holds all the patterns for the costumes we’re actually building. Each hanger holds the paper pattern pieces for a different specific costume. As you can see, there are a lot of them! In the front, you can see one of the designer’s renderings. This is what the Cutter uses to draft or drape the pattern to the specific actor’s measurements, just like Project Runway!

Slip Mockup and Photocopies of Renderings

Slip Mockup and Photocopies of Renderings

This is a pic of the different designs we’re building, along with a mockup of a period slip. Can I just say we’ve got a lot of work to do? : )

Sometimes I get asked, “Why don’t you just use real vintage garments?” Well, we can’t for lots of reasons. For one, people are much bigger than they were back then… You’ve noticed how basketball players seem to get bigger and bigger, and teenagers always seem to grow taller than their parents? Well, our contemporary bodies rarely fit into vintage garments anymore–we’re just too big! And those garments that have survived are rarely of a size that’s actually useable because in order to survive they’ve rarely been used. And that usually means they aren’t the “typical size”, as those garments that were useable back then were probably used often, and haven’t lasted long enough to make it through the last 80 years… As fashion has changed, our wardrobes have been discarded so there’s not much left anymore… The average man in World War II had a 38″ chest. Today the average is 42″. And the average men’s shoe size has gone from an 8.5 to a 10. Our bodies are just different…

On top of that, when was the last time you wore a garment 8 times a week and physically exerted yourself?  Costumes have to be very durable to meet that stress–they get much more wear and tear than a normal, every day piece of clothing.  Vintage garments simply can’t handle the strain…

Anyway. More pics and Costume-ology to come!

And I finally finished my audiobook, “Inkheart” by Cornelia Funke (narrated by Lynn Redgrave), and I’m lookin’ for another one to listen to… Any suggestions? Sure makes the day go quicker! : )

Take care, ya’ll, and live life with Relish!!

Costume-ology on the First Week of Bonnie and Clyde

Good grief I have become so lazy… This last week, I was getting up at 6:00am in order to join a carpool to work at 8:00, whereupon I’d work until 4:30pm, then carpool back home.

And I am so tired. Ha! No good excuses, except to explain that I have developed some horrible habits since my job at my former university ended, and screwing up my sleeping habits was high among them! By the time this last Friday came around, I was so tired at work my coffee was no longer effective, my eyes were watering, and it was all I could do just to keep quiet as I continually yawned…

But I have to say, I am having a blast!! I love this experience so far! The small group of people that I am working with on La Jolla Playhouse’s Bonnie and Clyde are really great–there were 6 costume technicians sewing in the shop–and we laugh and joke and debate together but we don’t waste time. Every one of us truly loves what we’re doing, and it’s fun to make things together, but we know we must remain diligent and on task. It’s truly a professional group of folk that can have fun and still get things done.

I’ve been hired as a Stitcher. In costume-shop-terms, that’s the member of a “cutting team” who is responsible for actually sewing the garments that have been previously patterned and cut out by other people. I assemble whatever pieces of the costumes I’m told to, as well as help complete the myriad of alterations that are needed on clothing already built.

Usually, a cutting team involves a Cutter/Draper as the leader. She translates the designer’s picture into reality, developing the pattern and cutting it out of craft paper. Then this person hands off the pattern to her assistant, also known as a First Hand who cuts the pattern out of the chosen fabric as well as all the linings & interfacings and such. Then it gets handed to me (the stitcher), and I assemble those pieces under their supervision. There may be several stitchers or first hands on a team, depending on how many costumes are assigned to it and the nature of the construction.

My experience in this shop is unique, since there are so few of us that there is really only one team. This week, we did mostly alterations, but toward the end we cut out some of the garments from the fabric that had arrived for us from New York City, chosen by the designer and his assistants who are selecting it from the plethora of options there in NYC’s fabric district.

At this point in the process of Bonnie and Clyde, the designer has already conceptualized what the costumes look like, drawn pictures, and had fittings with the actors using “mockups” (cheap versions of the costumes, usually out of muslin) that were altered and adjusted as needed. Now, the patterns have been tweeked and we’re actually assembling the garments for real out of real fabric.

The Costume Shop.  Sorry for the blurriness...

The Costume Shop. Sorry for the blurriness...

We have a lot to do… I’m not sure of the exact number of garments we have to build, but it’s somewhere between 9 to 11 different dresses and several miscellaneous pieces in about 3 weeks… All of them are period representations of 1930’s dust bowl fashion–charming and simple on the surface, but complicated and precise when you scratch under the surface. The colors chosen by the designer are in the sage greens, dusty roses, and rich browns that lend themselves to the antique feel of yesteryear. It’s going to be quite beautiful when it’s all done!

And so we press forward! This week, I helped repair several men’s suits from a rental house that were literally rotting away and in horrible shape, switched out a decrepit vest back for a new one, significantly altered a thick wool vest completely bound in knit ribbing, helped cut out two dresses (one of which was a linen-look asymmetrical plaid that was cut on the bias–ugh–which sadly had to be done twice because I messed up the first time), and assembled some mockup slips.

And I’ve listened to “The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown on audiobook, as well as falling in love with the completely and totally enchanting “Inkheart” By Cornelia Funke (& read by Lynn Redgrave) that I am in the middle of and can’t recommend enough for bed-time storytelling to young girls. Any other suggestions for good audiobooks? Hard to find one on sewing…hehe…

And so. This coming week will be another adventure, and I will update you all on what I’m doing, with some pics and such. Relished Artistry is still coming along–not much to say on that front. I have to earn money to buy some lining to move onto my next projects. I am trying to figure out what I can make that’s more in the “affordable” range–$10-20, but haven’t hit upon anything yet. Perhaps I will stumble upon something soon.

Take care! Talk with ya soon! Live life with Relish!!

Some Opinions Sought and Some Futures Found

First off, some of you may/may not know that the blog you are reading is actually a duplicate of another blog. I have two with the exact same content: one on Blogger, the other on WordPress. I’m not sure if it’s helpful or not, but in my explorations it’s harder to subscribe to one or the other depending on your experience, and there are those that simply don’t know about the different feeder services that make it easier to do so… I figured, why not? It’s not like I’m doing to separate blogs with totally different content–they’re both the same.

The one downside that I’ve discovered is the comments–it’s sad that comments made on one blog aren’t available to the other, but it’s worth the trade off for easier access, I feel. Perhaps I will stop posting on one in the future, but I would prefer to do that when I develop a website of my own for Relished Artistry.

I’d be interested in hearing from others if this is a good idea, and what blogging platform seems to be the most useful for those in the crafting/art fields. I’m limited in my understanding of how RSS feeds work and “readers” and the like–and I’m sure that if I am somewhat baffled, there are others out there that are just as daunted by the whole thing as much as I am. Thus, two blogs to make it easier for everyone.

Secondly–and this is a totally different topic–I have accepted a position at La Jolla Playhouse as an overhire stitcher on their newly developing musical “Bonnie and Clyde“.  bonnie-clyde-lgI’ll be working in an auxiliary costume shop with a one of my former supervisors, Ingrid Helton, who is the shop manager. She’s depending on me to work my fingers to the bone, and I’m excited to follow through. I’ll be working with some technicians from my past in a familiar structure that I’m used to, so it’ll feel like old home week!

The employment will last until mid-November, so it’s coming at the right time for me, monetarily. Ingrid and I go way back to 1995, when I first started at the Old Globe as a costume technician, and I worked on her cutting team for several years. She taught me everything I know about men’s tailoring, and for a while I was her assistant cutter. It will feel good to stretch my skills again.

So as a consequence, I’m going to be splitting my efforts for a short while–working on Relished Artistry after work and spending my days at LJP stitching as fast as I can. In the past, working in costume shops has had a tendency to have an “all-encompassing” effect on me and my mental state… It is difficult to “keep it a job” when the amount of focus and concentration is mentally exhausting. It is good on the one hand, but emotionally frazzling sometimes. I spend a lot of time listening to audiobooks on my iPod and podcasts to keep my mind in check. It would seem silly–“It’s just sewing!” But when one cares a great deal about quality and precision, and the entire team is invested in a high standard, it can be a bit daunting. I can anticipate that this will impact my ability to keep up with my business, but I am hoping that it will also spur me on in some ways to delve deeper into Relished Artistry.

So, I’ll keep you all updated on what I’m working on and what’s happening as I go along! This should be interesting!  Live life with Relish!   🙂

Costuming and Fashion: One of these things is not like the other…

Okay this is bit of a long one. Wow, do I have a mouthful to say tonight! And it’s perfect to start out the new direction of this blog. AND it’s all about the latest episode of Project Runway, which aired Thursday, September 24.

The challenge for the designer/contestants was to create a look for a character in one of several movie genres: Western, Film Noir, Period, Science Fiction/Fantasy, and Action/Adventure. It had to be completed in one day, and they had $150.

When I heard the challenge, I thought “Cool! This is right up my alley!”

And then I saw the results, and I was reminded how frustrating it is to be undervalued as a costume designer in the face of the fashion industry.

Tonight’s blog is about the definition of “Costume”. What is a costume, really? Is it a subset of fashion? Is it a matter of degree? Or is it something altogether completely separate?

No. A costume is fashion. However, a costume is much more overtly defined by a purpose and function that fashion doesn’t have to deal with.

First, a costume has a purpose. In a sense, fashion does as well, but not as explicitly defined as a costume’s. A costume is worn as part of a larger, collaborative effort that has a clear purpose: a performance of some kind, whether it’s to a party or as part of a production that’s filmed or live. A uniform is also considered a costume: it clearly delineates a person as a part of a larger whole separate from everyone else.

Second, a costume (unlike fashion) must support the vision of how that purpose is expressed. That may be focused through the eyes of a particular director or team, a studio, a bride, a choreographer, a corporate executive, or even a government.

Third, the costume must meet the dictates of a host of different “parameters” that are inherent to the nature of the expression. Is it a script? A cultural ritual like graduation or a wedding? Is it the impression desired for a fast food restaurant? Or the functionality of camouflage in a combat setting? How much time, money, and personnel is there to assemble it?

My experience is in theatre. My designs are regulated by a host of logistics that I have little, if any, control over. These include the script, the concept of the piece, and the genre. The purpose of the event dictates how those logistics are dealt with–is it better to get the message of the play across by putting it in period or should we place Arthur Miller’s pilgrims from “The Crucible” on the moon? Does the language have a poetic quality that can be abstracted somehow (putting everyone in foam rubber, for example), or do we need to put everyone in Masterpiece Theatre realism?

Fashion doesn’t deal with these quandaries. Instead of a script, fashion deals with the parameters set down by one’s particular “Style Tribe”.

What’s a style tribe? It’s the difference between what the sorority girls wear and the corporate executives. The movie, “Legally Blonde”, was an exercise in demonstrating conflicting style tribes. Tribes are defined by social class, age, gender, climate, politics, philosophies, occassion, or any number of different factors. And there are subsets: colleges have a wide variety of style tribes, including the artists, the stoners, the business students, the jocks, the science geeks, and the aforementioned sorority girls.

Art-Students-005

Each of these tribes comes with a host of what is “appropriate to wear” and what is not. Stepping outside the boundaries of what each tribe has determined as acceptable marks you as “not one of us”. (Incidentally, that’s why clothing can be terribly important to younger folk–fitting in is part of one’s self identity…) New Yorkers dress differently than Southern Californians. The Howells look different from Marianne and Ginger.

Interviewing-partying

You get the point.

The problem with this week’s challenge on Project Runway was that they asked people to design a costume for a character in a movie genre. What they really wanted was a piece of fashion that was influenced by a movie genre.

Two VERY different things.

How?

Let’s look at some movies that can help… These examples are costumes that were influenced by fashion. (Sometimes it’s helpful to look at the opposite situation.)  Please note that it’s a given in the costume design world that before the mid-1970’s, historical accuracy in film was “optional”. Some of our most beloved films that we regard as “period” are far from it.

For example: “My Fair Lady”. That musical is set in March of 1912. But you couldn’t tell that from the costumes: they’re about as 1960’s as you can get! Eliza’s traveling outfit, her Ascot Races dress, even her ball gown are all heavily influenced by the styles and fashions of 1964.

MyFairLadyDressCompare

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Another example: “Cleopatra”, with Elizabeth Taylor. Are you kidding me? Period accuracy would have warranted an X-rating. No, no, no… There was no such a thing as showing too much skin back in the Egyptian era…

Cleopatra1compare

Cleopatracompare2

These examples below use costuming in a more appropriate manner.  These films purposely mix period styles and contemporary influences into a look all their own: Bladerunner, for example. This is a sci-fi movie that is incredibly influenced by the film noir genre, on purpose, as a choice. So much of it was straight out of the 1940’s it could have been filmed in black and white…

FilmNoirCompare

Or how about Moulin Rouge? Those costumes were purposely enhanced from their period-accurate originals to include splashes of bright, garish colors and contrasting textures. They started with research. They made them non-period when they wanted them to be. They purposely blurred the lines between period accurate representation of historical fashion and created their interpretations of it in costume.

Moulin-Rouge-Compre

Today, genre accuracy in costuming is a highly valued skill: Lord of the Rings, Shakespeare in Love, Mad Men, Titanic, Evita, Memoirs of a Geisha, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Chicago, Milk, Schindler’s List, Dances with Wolves, Star Wars… All of these have their own parameters of what fits and what doesn’t, most of them dictated by what is appropriate historically or as part of the “vision” that makes the purpose of the film/TV program more clearly evident. It doesn’t have to be “real” or historically accurate, it’s what fits the parameters. Working from accuracy to non-accuracy as a choice. On purpose.

So. What did we get on Project Runway? We didn’t get genre accurate costumes.  We didn’t even get historical fashion with elaboration.  We got contemporary fashion inspired by movie genres. Without a real grounding in costume history, there was no way they could accurately represent these genres. Inevitably, they created “versions” of them that were clearly not accurately part of those genres at all…  Here’s a link to the pics of the final results.

Our contemporary sensibility doesn’t read contemporary-fusion into historical accuracy as a choice. It reads it as inaccurate, or wrong. Only when the degree of debarkation from the original period’s style is clearly strong enough to distinguish the difference do we accept it as a “take” or “interpretation” or “stylization” of what is, in our heads, the “real thing”.

There are too many that know too much to get away with faking it anymore.

I’m not advocating simply replicating the past. What’s the point in that? But what I am saying is that on this particular episode, the purpose/function was not made clear. They were designing for genres as style tribes, not as part of a production. They weren’t designing costumes, they were designing fashions that had costume elements.

It really, REALLY disturbs me that costume is somehow denigrated and considered “lesser than” by so-called fashionistas. Being a costume designer is HARD. You actually work with other people’s ideas and collaborate–a runway dress does not have it’s own opinions. An actor does!! Costuming requires a real operating knowledge of costume and fashion history, and the ability to implement it when appropriate, a lot of people skills and a host of other widely varied skills.

“Too costumey” as an insult? I think not. What about the retro movement? What about the up-cycling/second-hand movement? Goth? Punk? Rockabilly? And what about those Prada shoes that one wears to the office? Dressing up as costuming? Hmmm….

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“Costumey” is not synonymous with “inappropriate or overdone fashion”. It is not “too dramatic”, or “fake”. That’s insulting.

What is really at issue is how one personally determines when the degree of “dramatic flair” in one’s fashion sensibility is too much for one’s own taste, situation, etc.

And it’s funny how I look at runway shows today, and all I see is fashion dipping more and more into costuming’s dramatic flair by leaps and bounds, stretching that imaginary line of “appropriateness/too much drama” further and further. Given different defining parameters and purposes and logistics, those clothes would be considered costumes without any changes whatsoever.

It’s all about context.

In a sense, one could say that everything we wear is a costume, and that we pull attire from our closets based on outside parameters every day, depending on what we’re doing, or how we’re feeling, or the weather, or whatever… If anything, it seems to me that fashion is a contemporary subset of costuming, not the other way around.

And that’s my overly long 2¢.

Life life with Relish! And wear that costume well! : )

E-Books and Pondering

I’ve been reeling from a particular e-book that was recently released, written by “Sister” Diane Gilleland of Craftypod fame (www.craftypod.com). It’s called Creating a Blog Audience. It’s the “sequel” to another e-book that she published called Making a Great Blog, and when you put the two together they pack a mind melting whollop that has really made me sit back and ponder stuff. (Incidently, I don’t know why she calls herself “Sister” Diane, but it works. She’s preachin’ good stuff, lemme tell ya!)

First off, let me say that I’ve listened to all of the episodes of Sister Diane’s podcasts, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I was raving to a colleague about it one day, only to learn that she actually listened to Sister Diane, too! My friend isn’t into the podcast universe as much as I am, so to learn that she had actually heard of it was a real surprise! I download it off of iTunes (I have a Mac computer) and listen to it while I work in my studio. Makes me feel like I’m multi-tasking with the best of them, and actually getting twice as much done!

When I heard that she was releasing this book, I pounced on it and downloaded it and the other blogging book she wrote. Both come with extra “workbook” sheets that let you complete her exercises that she outlines. And those exercises have been incredibly interesting to me.3878035847_8b44d88b8d_o

I read the first book straight through, and loved it. Just to help explain the impact it’s had on me, I now have a poster on my wall by my computer that lists the “reasons I write on my blog”. It’s quite useful in maintaining my focus! I’m now measuring everything I contemplate writing about against those reasons, and it helps me figure out appropriateness, validity, and usefulness.

But the second book really made me sit back and think about stuff, and I’ve had to actually set it aside for a bit because it’s made me realize I have a lot of self-educating to do. In the second chapter, it poses a question: “What kinds of crafts do your ideal audience members like to do?” And that perplexed me. I realized very very quickly, I had very little idea of the kind of crafter/artist I was writing for. I was just “putting it out there” without any real thought behind who might actually be interested in any of it.

And that led me to realize that I don’t spend nearly enough time actually reading other people’s expressions. If I am going to write anything that is relevant and interesting to anyone, I have to know what else is being said, what they’re interested in, and provide a reason why they should read my blog in the first place.

empowering-orthers-to-achieve-successWhich led me back to my reasons on my poster. And it’s slowly starting to sink in that my reasons for writing the blog are rather “self-oriented”. I started this blog to help promote my wearable art business, and I’m coming to see that simply isn’t enough. Who wants to read a blog full of self-aggrandizing advertising? I certainly don’t.

So from here on out, I’m not only going to update you on what I’m working on, but I’m also shifting the focus away from me and more toward things that are interesting in a more practical sense. Philosophy, tutorials, interesting links… Since I’m not teaching theatre anymore, I might as well use that “bank” of resources and share them with you. Things like costume history, pattern drafting tutorials, online costume resources, material resources, small business advice, theatrical crafting materials, period styles and ornament, clothing accessories, theatrical movements, philosophies, art history… I’m excited about making this blog my classroom.

If I can help my blog audience relish their artistic capabilities through lessons, advice, examples, projects, and juicy discussions, then this blog will serve a purpose beyond simply being a tool for me. It can be a tool for you, too.

And somehow, I feel really empowered by that, you know?

The Last Theatre Show

The last theatre show I have on my docket closed tonight.  I went in for strike for Noises Off, and the finality of it has hit home.
This is an unusual point in my life.  Several chapters have come to a close in rapid succession, much like a series of epilogues at the end of a book.  As I move on from a relatively secure job at my former university, I am also finishing up my current employment in theatre, which is what I have my Master’s Degree in.  At this point, I am not doing anything in the field that I had spent my life preparing for.
And that’s a scary situation to find one’s self in.
It’s odd…  At this point in time, many a man has started to go through a sort of “mid-life crisis” for themselves…  And on the surface it seems to me like there are a lot of similarities…  Not only have I chosen to cut ties with one aspect of my career, another aspect has finished up naturally.  Working in theatre has been the driving force of my life thus far, and it’s terribly disconcerting not to be either teaching it or working in it.
I’ve also had several personal things in my life come to an end–organizations I used to belong to, even friendships that I had thought were more solid than they were…  I’m left with the feeling of being sort of adrift…
On the other hand, I am in an enviable position.  I am starting out with a new beginning.  I have opened a new book, and starting a new chapter.  I am investing my time and energy into a different direction.  A sequel, if you will.
And that is a good thing.  The trick is to stay diligent.  It is easy to flounder…  I’ve been feeling confident one day and despair the next…  To choose a path through the forest (and yet be open to watching for clearer pathways) is not always the easiest thing to do.  And sometimes it seems like a dark forest that I’m entering right now…
But I have to remember that there are wonders of nature that are waiting for me to see them.  Vistas of sunlight cascading through the forest, streams that turn into tiny waterfalls, and birds with songs that echo through the woods.  I’ve felt that feeling before, literally…  As a second grader, my family lived in a housing development called Oak Run, outside of Dahinda, Illinois.  There were forests and animal trails, and beautiful hidden valleys with creeks that dazzled the eyes and stirred the imagination.  That dark forest is only dark until you find your way and make your mental map of where you are.
Wow, I forced that analogy through the wringer, didn’t I? Haha!
Well.  I have to keep progressing forward, working diligently at what I enjoy.  This business is going to succeed, I feel it.  And relishing every single moment–even the unsure ones– is what this is all about.
Live life with Relish.  Because otherwise, what’s the point?

The last theatre show I have on my docket closed tonight.  I went in for strike for Noises Off, and the finality of it has hit home.

This is an unusual point in my life.  Several chapters have come to a close in rapid succession, much like a series of epilogues at the end of a book.  As I move on from a relatively secure job at my former university, I am also finishing up my current employment in theatre, which is what I have my Master’s Degree in.  At this point, I am not doing anything in the field that I had spent my life preparing for.

And that’s a scary situation to find one’s self in.

s_sunset23

It’s odd…  At this point in time, many a man has started to go through a sort of “mid-life crisis” for themselves…  And on the surface it seems to me like there are a lot of similarities…  Not only have I chosen to cut ties with one aspect of my career, another aspect has finished up naturally.  Working in theatre has been the driving force of my life thus far, and it’s terribly disconcerting not to be either teaching it or working in it.

I’ve also had several personal things in my life come to an end–organizations I used to belong to, even friendships that I had thought were more solid than they were…  I’m left with the feeling of being sort of adrift…

On the other hand, I am in an enviable position.  I am starting out with a new beginning.  I have opened a new book, and starting a new chapter.  I am investing my time and energy into a different direction.  A sequel, if you will.

And that is a good thing.  The trick is to stay diligent.  It is easy to flounder…  I’ve been feeling confident one day and despair the next…  To choose a path through the forest (and yet be open to watching for clearer pathways) is not always the easiest thing to do.  And sometimes it seems like a dark forest that I’m entering right now…

forest

But I have to remember that there are wonders of nature that are waiting for me to see them.  Vistas of sunlight cascading through the forest, streams that turn into tiny waterfalls, and birds with songs that echo through the woods.  I’ve felt that feeling before, literally…  As a second grader, my family lived in a housing development called Oak Run, outside of Dahinda, Illinois.  There were forests and animal trails, and beautiful hidden valleys with creeks that dazzled the eyes and stirred the imagination.  That dark forest is only dark until you find your way and make your mental map of where you are.

Wow, I forced that analogy through the wringer, didn’t I? Haha!

Well.  I have to keep progressing forward, working diligently at what I enjoy.  This business is going to succeed, I feel it.  And relishing every single moment–even the unsure ones– is what this is all about.

Live life with Relish.  Because otherwise, what’s the point?

Validating Community

Sunday night I got together with two good friends of mine, Robin Roberts and Ben Seibert.  A little sangria with vegan pizza (and too much tobacco) later, it was 2:15 in the morning!
Ben worked with me at my university job I held for the last 10 years. This is his third year, and he’s one of the best production managers I have ever met.  He’s fighting an uphill battle given the production parameters at that school, but he’s a real trooper.  He’s gonna win, come heck or highwater.
Robin was the set designer there.  She and Ben worked very closely.  I didn’t have a costume shop manager for my experience there, but my former position as designer became a costume shop management position, so I guess they have one now…
Anyway, we talked about all manner of things (mostly about our experiences at the university), but we also talked about art in general and our hopes for our individual creative futures.  And that’s what has been the most heartening…  While we can be pretty negative when the three of us get together (hey, we’re theatre people–we bitch) we also were very positive and interested in each other’s artistic endeavors.
I just want to say that’s incredibly important.  I can’t say how vital it is for a creative artist to have a group of friends.  Not only is it important career-wise for an artist to have a larger circle of interested parties for their livelihood, and a community that they participate in as an important contributor, but it’s really necessary for an artist to have a family.  Friends that not only show interest, but genuine concern for each other.  The sense of validation this provides is unmeasurable.  The self-worth that it engenders is irreplaceable.
I recently got some tickets for some friends of mine (in a different segment of my life) to attend a show I had worked on.  Rarely do my circles of friends overlap–when they do, it’s surreal for me–so it’s very uncommon for my friends to see any of my professional theatrical design work.  Well, this time, it happened.  And they were incredibly appreciative.  They loved it!  And it was an incredible ego boost for me to hear it!  It was inspiring not because I needed to hear I did a good job, but that they could be there for me in the future.
Community is important.  Friends are important.  Make sure you’re supporting their work.
So I finally have my Etsy store up, and today I started my Artfire store.  You can find links to both of them at the bottom of my main blog page.  Check’em out and let me know what you think.
Live life with Relish!

Sunday night I got together with two good friends of mine, Robin Roberts and Ben Seibert.  A little sangria with vegan pizza (and too much tobacco) later, it was 2:15 in the morning!

Ben worked with me at my university job I held for the last 10 years. This is his third year, and he’s one of the best production managers I have ever met.  He’s fighting an uphill battle given the production parameters at that school, but he’s a real trooper.  He’s gonna win, come heck or highwater.

Robin was the set designer there.  She and Ben worked very closely.  I didn’t have a costume shop manager for my experience there, but my former position as designer became a costume shop management position, so I guess they have one now…

Anyway, we talked about all manner of things (mostly about our experiences at the university), but we also talked about art in general and our hopes for our individual creative futures.  And that’s what has been the most heartening…  While we can be pretty negative when the three of us get together (hey, we’re theatre people–we bitch) we also were very positive and interested in each other’s artistic endeavors.

I just want to say that’s incredibly important.  I can’t say how vital it is for a creative artist to have a group of friends.  Not only is it important career-wise for an artist to have a larger circle of interested parties for their livelihood, and a community that they participate in as an important contributor, but it’s really necessary for an artist to have a family.  Friends that not only show interest, but genuine concern for each other.  The sense of validation this provides is unmeasurable.  The self-worth that it engenders is irreplaceable.

I recently got some tickets for some friends of mine (in a different segment of my life) to attend a show I had worked on.  Rarely do my circles of friends overlap–when they do, it’s surreal for me–so it’s very uncommon for my friends to see any of my professional theatrical design work.  Well, this time, it happened.  And they were incredibly appreciative.  They loved it!  And it was an incredible ego boost for me to hear it!  It was inspiring not because I needed to hear I did a good job, but that they could be there for me in the future.

Community is important.  Friends are important.  Make sure you’re supporting their work.

So I finally have my Etsy store up, and today I started my Artfire store.  Check’em out and let me know what you think.

Live life with Relish!

Project Runway Thoughts

I just saw the premiere episode of Project Runway on Lifetime.  I’ve watched it for several years now–never regularly, though.  I caught an episode here and there, and I recognize the designers from past seasons.  The “All Star” 2-hour special that preceded the premiere was really interesting.  Seeing all those old designers come back and meld seasons was trippy.
But I have to say, the television show is so far from reality that it’s laughable…  Having some experience in clothing construction, I know what it takes to make a garment actually work, and the time constraints they are put under are ridiculous.  That’s not design, that’s “what-can-I-get-done-as-fast-as-I-can”…  I shudder to think of the quality that’s sacrificed simply to staple things together so they can be worn down a runway for 30 seconds (if that).  I laugh when I see them struggle to try to rethread a serger or change the needle…  Good grief, what world have they been living in that they don’t know how to operate the machines they’re working with?
I am the first to say that I know nothing about the fashion industry.  I blissfully developed what skills I have without having to dip my feet in that cesspool.  And I call it a cesspool with respect–it’s a damn vicious one where survival of the fittest is the rule of the day.  But life is more than that.  Theatre taught me that.  Life is more than how you look and how you give that first impression.  It’s more than letting your clothes dictate your “cool factor”, or dressing “appropriately” for the job.
Underneath all that industry is a world of real people who buy what comes out of the fashion factory.  And the people that I live and breath with, that I value, that I admire and that I ultimately want in my life… well…  They’re not the people that drive the fashion industry.  They’re the multitudes of people that wear clothing 3 and 5 years out of fashion.  They’re the masses that don’t pay attention to the latest line arriving at Sax or Nordstrom.  They’re the average every day joes that have to put two cents together to come up with four.
Fashion is not “the new”.  Fashion is belief in one’s self.  Fashion is confidence.  Fashion serves whatever purpose is required by the wearer for whatever situation they are in.
It’s not slamming together a dress in 24 hours with a bunch of carpet from a restaurant.
That’s simply thinking on your feet.  And the industry may have an element of that, but it certainly isn’t everything.
I would urge you to take Project Runway with a grain of salt.  Speed and ingenuity will always take a back seat to heart and care.  Real fashion isn’t about the designer at all, but how it makes the person wearing it feel.  And if they feel good in what they’re wearing, that’s all that’s important.
And the people in my world understand that.  They don’t want Mr. Blackman judging them on a best/worst dressed list…  They don’t need him to dictate what “looks good.”  According to whom??
Wear what you love.  Express yourself, and the people who should matter in your life will respect you.  If others don’t, then they don’t deserve to be in it anyway.

I just saw the premiere episode of Project Runway on Lifetime.  I’ve watched it for several years now–never regularly, though.  I caught an episode here and there, and I recognize the designers from past seasons.  The “All Star” 2-hour special that preceded the premiere was really interesting.  Seeing all those old designers come back and meld seasons was trippy.

But I have to say, the television show is so far from reality that it’s laughable…  Having some experience in clothing construction, I know what it takes to make a garment actually work, and the time constraints they are put under are ridiculous.  That’s not design, that’s “what-can-I-get-done-as-fast-as-I-can”…  I shudder to think of the quality that’s sacrificed simply to staple things together so they can be worn down a runway for 30 seconds (if that).  I laugh when I see them struggle to try to rethread a serger or change the needle…  Good grief, what world have they been living in that they don’t know how to operate the machines they’re working with?

I am the first to say that I know nothing about the fashion industry.  I blissfully developed what skills I have without having to dip my feet in that cesspool.  And I call it a cesspool with respect–it’s a damn vicious one where survival of the fittest is the rule of the day.  But life is more than that.  Theatre taught me that.  Life is more than how you look and how you give that first impression.  It’s more than letting your clothes dictate your “cool factor”, or dressing “appropriately” for the job.

Underneath all that industry is a world of real people who buy what comes out of the fashion factory.  And the people that I live and breath with, that I value, that I admire and that I ultimately want in my life… well…  They’re not the people that drive the fashion industry.  They’re the multitudes of people that wear clothing 3 and 5 years out of fashion.  They’re the masses that don’t pay attention to the latest line arriving at Sax or Nordstrom.  They’re the average every day joes that have to put two cents together to come up with four.

Fashion is not “the new”.  Fashion is belief in one’s self.  Fashion is confidence.  Fashion serves whatever purpose is required by the wearer for whatever situation they are in.

It’s not slamming together a dress in 24 hours with a bunch of carpet from a restaurant.

That’s simply thinking on your feet.  And the industry may have an element of that, but it certainly isn’t everything.

I would urge you to take Project Runway with a grain of salt.  Speed and ingenuity will always take a back seat to heart and care.  Real fashion isn’t about the designer at all, but how it makes the person wearing it feel.  And if they feel good in what they’re wearing, that’s all that’s important.

And the people in my world understand that.  They don’t want Mr. Blackman judging them on a best/worst dressed list…  They don’t need him to dictate what “looks good.”  According to whom??

Wear what you love.  Express yourself, and the people who should matter in your life will respect you.  If others don’t, then they don’t deserve to be in your life anyway.